Closing the circle

I view writing fiction almost in flowchart form. The writer has an idea. They translate the story in their heads into words on a page (digital or otherwise). Then the reader turns the words back into imagination when they read it. Just like translating from one language to another, what the first person meant and what the second person understands are not quite the same thing. That's not a bad thing. It's a good thing, in fact. It means that stories have meaning for any reader and critics have job security.

Readers can talk about what a book meant to them through reviews and word of mouth, but I doubt it gets back to the author for the most part. One of the frequently cited pieces of advice for writers is to not read your reviews. It's good advice, because reading a negative review can destroy a nascent writer. But it means that authors are left wondering about their translation skills as they change imagination into words.

Mark, of Mark Reads Stuff (Image from Mark's site)
At least, that's what I thought, until John Scalzi found reader Mark working his way through The Android's Dream. Mark's (I don't know what his surname is) reviews are so much more in-depth than anything I've ever heard of. Even calling them reviews is a misnomer, because Mark doesn't wait until he finishes the book to talk about it. It's really more of a one man book club. Mark writes a post for each chapter of the book he reads, often with all caps when he gets to an exciting part. One of my favorite authors, N.K. Jemisin found Mark reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and wrote a great post about watching a reader actually read her book.

Unlike most readers, Mark actually gets to close the circle of writer, story, and reader. I've tweeted a few authors and talked to authors in blog post comments, even asked questions at readings. But it's not the same as what Mark does because my interactions never rise above thank you and you're welcome. I love what Mark does because he gets so into the books that I've seen him read. I don't know if I have it in me to respond the way Mark does.

At any rate, Mark, if you ever end up reading this, I salute you. Shine on, you crazy diamond. 

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